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Why Disfranchisement is Bad 



By ARCHIBALD H. GRIMKE 




F the disfranchisement of 
the negro by the South 
could settle permanently 
the negro question, I think 
that the action of that 



section would find its justification in 
that achievement, according to the 
Jesuitical principle that the end justi- 
fies the means. But can disfranchise- 
ment of the negro settle the negro 
question? j?irst: Can it do so for the 
negro? Second: Can it do so for the 
South? Third: Can it do so for the 
rest of the nation? I do not think that 
it can do so for the negro, or for the 
South, or for the rest of the nation. 
And unless disfranchisement of the 
negro settles this question in its three- 
fold aspect, it will not settle it in such 
a way that it will long stay settled. If 
the negro refuse to abide by such a 
settlement, the question will not be 
so settled merely because the South 
has decided so to settle it. Neither 
can the South of to-day settle the ques- 
tion by disfranchisement, if disfran- 
chisement of the negro be found in 
operation to injure the South of to- 
morrow much more deeply than it does 
the negro. For what is bad for the 
negro to-day will be found to be still 
worse for the South to-morrow. The 
South must, therefore, awake some 
time to this fact, unless she is indeed 
stricken with that hopeless madness 
by which the gods intend to destroy 
her. But even if the South and the 
negro agree so to settle the question, 
the question will not be permanently 
settled if the North, if the rest of the 
nation, refuses eventually to form a 
party to the compact. For the rest 
the nation, quite independently of the 
action of the South and the acquies- 
cence of the negro, will have some- 
thing, something very decisive to say 
ultimately about the settlement of this 
question. The North has, in reality, 
quite as much at stake in its settle- 
ment as either the negro or the South. 
Disfranchisement will not, therefore, 
prove a permanent settlement of the 



negro question if it be found in opera- 
tion to affect injuriously Northern and 
national interests, or to work badly in 
the conduct of governmental affairs in 
respect to those interests. 

I. 

Can disfranchisement settle the 
question for the negro? I do not think 
it can; I am sure that it will not, for 
the simple and sufficient reason that 
the negro will not consent to such a 
settlement — a settlement which vir- 
tually decitizenizes him, and relegates 
him to a condition of practical servi- 
tude in the republic. He has tasted 
freedom, he has tasted manhood 
rights, he has tasted civil and political 
equality. He knows that his freedom, 
his American citizenship, his right to 
vote, have been written into the Con- 
stitution of the United States, and 
written large there in three great 
amendments. He knows more: he 
knows that he himself has written his 
title to those rights with his blood in 
the history of the country in four 
wars, and he is of the firm belief that 
his title to them is a perfect one. 

No party, no State, no section, can, 
therefore, deprive him of those rights 
without leaving in his mind a sense of 
bitter wrong, of being cheated of what 
belongs to him, cheated in defiance of 
law, of the supreme law of the land, 
and in spite of his just claim to fairer 
treatment at the hands of his fellow- 
countrymen. He will understand that 
this enormity was committed against 
him on account of his race and color. 
He will see that it was done by the 
white race — a race that has ever 
wronged him, that has never failed 
to take from him, because it had the 
power, whatever he cared most for 
in the world. Nothing could possibly 
make him, under such cruel circum- 
stances, love such a race, such an 
enemy. He will learn to hate the 
white race, therefore, with all the 
strength of rancor of centuries of ac- 
cumulated outrages and oppressions. 



From July, 1904 number The Atlantic Monthly. 



Copyright 1904, by Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 



The relation of the two races in the 
South could not, then, be one of mu- 
tual respect, confidence and good will. 
It would become, on the contrary, one 
of mutual fear, distrust and hatred. 
The whites would fear, distrust, and 
hate the negro, and that increasingly, 
because they had so deeply wronged 
him; and the negro would return this 
fear, distrust and hatred with a meas- 
ure heaping up and running over, not 
openly, like the whites, to oe sure, but 
covertly, cunningly, because of his 
weakness. He would live his life, his 
deeper life, more and more apart from 
the whites, live it in an underworld of 
which no white man would be able to 
get more than a glimpse, and that at 
rare intervals. It would be an under- 
world in which his bitter sense of 
wrong, his brooding miseries, his re- 
pressed faculties of mind, his crushed 
sensibilities, his imprisoned aspira- 
tions to be and to do as other men, 
his elemental powers of resistance, his 
primitive passions, his savage in- 
stincts, his very despair, would burn 
and rage beneath the thin crust of 
law and order which separates him 
from the upper world of the white 
race, his implacable foe and oppressor. 
Through this thin crust of law and 
order there will perforce break at 
times some of tnat hidden fire, some 
of that boiling lava of a race's agony 
and despair. There will be race feuds, 
race conflicts, as certainly as winds 
will blow, but no one will be deeply 
enough versed in the movements of 
these stormy, these fiery currents and 
visitations from the abysses of that 
underworld of the negro, to be able 
to discover their formation, to foretell 
their coming, or to forecast their ex- 
tent and duration. 

So far as the negro is concerned, 
then, to disfranchise him will not set- 
tle the negro question. It will do any- 
thing else better than that. For it 
will make trouble, and no end of it. 
It will certainly make trouble if he 
rise in the human scale in spite of the 
wrong done him. Does any one think 
that he will ever cease to strive for 
the restoration of his rights as an 
American citizen, and all of his rights, 
if he rise in character, property and 
intelligence? To think the contrary is 
to think an absurdity. But if he fall 
in the human scale in consequence of 
the wrong done him, he will surely 
drag the South down with him. For 
he and the South are bound the one 
to the other by a ligament as vital as 



that which bound together for good or 
bad, for life or death, the Siamese 
twins. The Enceladian struggles of the 
black Titan of the riouth beneath the 
huge mass of the white race's brutal 
oppressions, and of his own imbruted 
nature, will shape peace out of the 
land and prosperity out of the South- 
ern States, and involve, finally, whites 
and blacks alike in common poverty, 
degradation, and failure in the eco- 
nomic world, in hopeless decline of all 
of the great social forces which make 
a people move upward and not down- 
ward, forward and not backward in 
civilization. 

II. 

Disfranchisement of the negro is 
bad for the South. It is bad for her, 
in the first place, on account of the 
harmful effect produced by it on her 
black labor. It makes a large propor- 
tion of her laboring population restless 
and discontented with their civil and 
social condition, and it will keep them 
so. It makes it well-nigh impossible 
for this restless and discontented labor 
class to make the most and the best 
of themselves with the limited oppor- 
tunities afforded them, with the social 
and political restrictions imposed by 
law upon them. It hinders employers 
of this labor from producing the 
largest and the best results with it, 
for the same cause. For to obtain by 
means of this labor the largest and 
best results, employers of it ought to 
do the things, ought to seek to have 
the State do the things, which will 
tend to reduce the natural friction be- 
tween labor and capital to its lowest 
terms, to make labor contented and 
happy, surely not the things which 
will have the opposite effect on that 
labor. Otherwise, the energy which 
ought to go into production will be 
scattered, consumed, in contests with 
capital, in active or passive resistance 
to bad social and economic conditions, 
in effective or ineffective striving to 
improve those conditions. 

Every labor class has but a given 
amount of energy, I take it, to devote 
to production. How much of this en- 
ergy may be available for productive 
purposes depends on its social condi- 
tion, whether it is contented or discon- 
tented, getting on in the world, getting 
ahead in material well-being and well- 
doing; on its economic condition, 
whether it is intelligent or ignorant, 
efficient or inefficient; on its civil con- 
dition, its legal Status, whether it 



enjoys equal laws and equal oppor- 
tunities with other labor classes in the 
struggle for existence, in the battle 
for bread, or whether it is crippled, 
obstructed instead, by unequal laws, 
by artificial restrictions which are 
made to apply to its activity alone. 

The grand source of wealth of any 
community is its labor. The warfare 
which nation wages against nation to- 
day is not military, but industrial. 
Competition among nations for mar- 
kets for the sale of their surplus prod- 
ucts is at bottom a struggle 'of the 
labor of different nations for industrial 
possession of those markets, for the 
industrial supremacy of the labor of 
one country over the labor of other 
countries. Industrialism, commercial- 
ism, not militarism, mark the charac- 
ter of our twentieth-century civiliza- 
tion. That country, therefore, which 
takes into this industrial rivalry and 
struggle the best trained, the most 
completely equipped, the most up-to- 
date labor, will win over those other 
countries which bring to the battle for 
world markets a body of crude, back- 
ward and inefficient labor. Education, 
skill, quality, tell in production; tell 
at once, and tell in the long run. It is 
now well understood that the most in- 
telligent labor is the most profitable 
labor. Ignorant labor is certainly no 
match in world markets for intelligent 
labor. It is no match in home mar- 
kets either. Quality, intelligence, will 
prevail in such an industrial contest; 
whether in agriculture, manufactures, 
mining or commerce. 

But to get the best and most out 
of labor, it must not only be intelli- 
gent, it must also be free — free to rise 
or sink in the social scale. It must 
have a voice in making the laws under 
which it lives. Otherwise, those laws 
will operate to hinder, not to help it 
to make the best fight of which it is 
capable for possession of home and 
foreign markets. Without this voice 
the laws will become more and more 
unequal and oppressive. A labor class 
deprived of freedom, of a voice in gov- 
ernment, cannot maintain the advan- 
tage which mere intelligence and skill 
may have gained for it in the struggle 
for existence. As it loses freedom, a 
voice in government, it will lose ulti- 
mately its skill, its intelligence as an 
industrial factor. For it will become, 
in effect, subject to, if not exactly the 
slave of, the capitalistic and labor 
classes which are free, which make 
the laws. And these classes will in- 



variably act on the assumption that 
the more ignorant such a subject labor 
class is, the less trouble it will cause. 
In their opinion slave labor is more 
manageable than free labor, gives rise 
to simpler social conditions, to prob- 
lems less complex and difficult to 
handle. 

Instead of establishing schools for 
the education of a labor class deprived 
of the right to vote, the class which 
possesses the right will not establish 
new ones, and will, in addition, en- 
deavor to lower the standard of those 
already established and then to do 
away with them entirely. The chief 
end and purpose of the classes with 
the right to vote will be, not to raise 
the average of literacy, of intelligence 
of the class without that right, but to 
lower the same in order the better to 
keep it in a state of permanent in- 
dustrial subordination and inferiority 
to themselves. And so the negro labor 
of the South, deprived of the right 
to vote, will see its schools diminish 
in numbers and quality, will get, in 
one State and then in another, fewer 
schools and shorter terms, until they 
reach the vanishing point, where in 
large portions of the South negro 
schools will disappear altogether. Un- 
der such circumstances negro labor 
instead of advancing in intelligence 
and skill, in economic efficiency, will 
steadily lose the ground gained by it 
in these respects since the war, and 
will retrograde to the condition of 
dense ignorance, of economic ineffi- 
ciency, which characterized it before 
that event. Surely slave labor is the 
most unproductive, the most wasteful 
labor in the world. As it was not able 
to compete successfully with the free 
and intelligent labor of the North be- 
fore the war, it will not be able to do 
so to-day or to-morrow. Ignorant 
negro labor must weight the South 
down heavily, therefore, in that indus- 
trial struggle in which it is now en- 
gaged, not alone with the rest of the 
nation, but with the world. And this 
means for Southern labor industrial in- 
feriority to the labor of the rest of the 
nation and of the world. It means for 
the Southern States ultimate industrial 
feebleness and subordination to the 
rest of the nation, and a low order' of 
civilization. 

Thus it will be found that disfran- 
chisement, which was intended tc 
make the negro a surf, to degrade him 
as a man, to extinguish his ambition, 
to extinguish his intelligence, to fix 



for him in the State, in society, a place 
of permanent inferiority and subordin- 
ation to the white race, has degraded 
the whole South industrially at the 
same time, and fixed for her likewise 
a place of permanent economic inferi- 
ority and subordination to the rest of 
the nation. The huge body of her 
black ignorance, poverty, and degrada- 
tion will attract to itself by the social 
laws of gravitation all of the white 
ignorance, poverty, and degradation of 
the entire section. The stupendous 
mass of this social and industrial 
wreck, of the ensuing barbarism and 
crime, and of race hatred and oppres- 
sion, will whelm in the end in com- 
mon misery and ruin whites and 
blacks alike, the whole labor of the 
South. It is hard to believe that, that 
section is knowingly, deliberately in- 
voking such a fate, merely for the sake 
of gratifying its race prejudice against 
the negro. But whether it knowingly 
invites such consequences or not, its 
action invites them. For disfranchise- 
ment of the negro means, without 
doubt, degradation of its black labor, 
and this in turn the certain degrada- 
tion of its white labor, and this in 
turn inevitable industrial feebleness 
and inferiority, and this in turn ulti- 
mate sectional retrogression, poverty, 
and a low order of civilization. Is 
the South ready to pay such a ruinous 
price for disfranchisement of the 
negro, for the sake of keeping him for- 
ever the servitor of the white race? 
Perhaps she is. It looks so; yet time 
alone can tell whether that section on 
this question is at bottom wise or fool- 
ish, sane or insane. If it shall turn out 
that it is really foolish, incurably mad 
on the negro question, then there is 
no hope for it within itself. It will 
persist in running straight upon its 
destruction. For alas, "Whom the gods 
would destroy they first make mad." 

III. 

It has been shown that disfranchise- 
ment of the negro is bad for the negro 
and for the South. It remains to con- 
sider why it is bad for the North, for 
the rest of the nation. But if it has 
been demonstrated that disfranchise- 
ment is bad for the negro and for the 
South, it will follow as a logical con- 
clusion that it is bad for the rest, of 
the nation. For whatever injures a 
part injures the whole. The negro is 
a part of the South, the South a part 
of the nation, in as real, as vital a 
sense as feet and hands are parts of 



the human body. Hurt a hand, lame 
a foot, and the whole body is hurt, 
lamed at the same time and for the 
same cause. This it not sentiment. It 
is fact, it is common sense, it is sci- 
ence. The old fable of the Members 
and the Belly is as true and timely to- 
day as it was in ancient Roman days. 
Starve the belly and the whole body is 
starved, suffers in consequence. With- 
er an arm, shrivel a leg, dim an eye, 
and the whole body goes maimed and 
halt and darkened. 

Whatever, therefore, renders it im- 
possible for the negro of the South to 
make the most and the best of himself 
injures that section, and this injury to 
the South hurts, in turn, the whole 
country. For social and economic laws 
draw no color line, exempt from their 
impartial operations no race because 
it happens to be white, but fall equally 
on all, regardless of artificial distinc- 
tions and discriminations, on rich and 
poor, on strong and weak, on white 
and black. Southern law and opinion 
discriminate against the black man 
and in favor of the white man. Not 
so the laws of Nature. What harms 
the negro's body will harm the white 
man's body. What degrades negro 
labor will degrade white labor like- 
wise. What heals the white man's 
body will heal the black man's body. 
And what elevates white labor will 
elevate black labor also. This is the 
higher law, — a law beyond the reach 
of revised constitutions and American 
colorphobia to change or nullify — a 
law which a greater than the Supreme 
Court interprets and will execute with 
strict, impartiality, neither for nor 
against the negro, neither for nor 
against the South, but on whose de- 
cision, on whose operation, hang verily 
the fate of the negro, the fate of the 
South, and the fate of the nation, at 
one and the same time. 

Our country is seeking to retain old 
markets and find new ones for the 
products of its labor, both at home and 
abroad. That is why it has erected 
about that labor high tariff walls, to 
give to it a monopoly of the home 
market. That is why it is reaching 
out all over the world for markets 
for its surplus products. That is why 
it annexed Hawaii, Porto Rico, and 
the Philippines. That is why it is in 
favor of an open door in China. That 
is why it is going to build the Panama 
Canal. That is why it is building a 
great navy. It is looking out for mar- 
kets with foresight and energy. Is it 



looking out for its labor with equal 
foresight and energy? Is that policy 
long or short sighted which has for its 
object the extension of our markets 
for the sale of our golden eggs, but 
does not include any proper care for 
the barnyard fowl that lays those 
eggs? American labor is the fowl for 
whose eggs we are seeking markets 
the world over. Our national fowl is 
laying her eggs, is competing with the 
fowls of other nations. Do we produce 
better eggs, and are we able to sell 
them in world markets for less than 
other nations, our commercial rivals, 
are able to do? And if so, why are we 
able to produce a better article, and 
sell it for less than our competitors? 
Is it not because our national hen is a 
better breed of hen than the hens of 
other nations? Behind the egg is the 
hen: behind the products of labor is 
the laborer. 

A superior laborer will produce bet- 
ter work and more of it than an in- 
ferior one. How comes it that Ameri- 
can labor, outside of the South, holds 
to-day the front rank among the labor 
of the world, and has held this fore- 
most place for eighty years? Because 
it is the freest and most intelligent 
labor in the world. For the freer and 
more intelligent the labor, the more 
efficient as an industrial factor will be 
that labor. The freest and most intel- 
ligent labor is the most productive, 
the most profitable labor. To the su- 
periority of American labor two things 
have contributed more than any 
others: the free common school, and 
the educative and stimulating function 
exercised on the minds of laboring 
men by the right to vote, by the^part 
taken periodically by them in govern- 
ment, in the choice of rulers, and in 
the consideration of public questions. 
The wits of the children are developed, 
trained in the public schools; the wits 
of the adults are educated, sharpened 
at the polls. Labor thus developed 
mentally, and disciplined in these two 
great schools of letters and practical 
civics, is doubly equipped, doubly 
armed to defend well its own interests 
at home and abroad, and to defend 
those of the country also. It is alert, 
assertive, thoughtful, resourceful, in- 
dependent, self-respecting — capable of 
following and leading. It knows what 
it wants, what is good for it and what 
is not. It can take care of itself, can 
fight its own battle with organized 
capital at home, and with the rival 
labor of other countries in world mar- 
kets. Herein lies the superiority of 



the labor of our American industrial 
democracy at the present time, with 
that one exception, Southern labor. 

If this country is to hold what it has 
gained in world markets, and to add 
to the same in the future, can it 
afford longer to neglect that part of its 
labor which is south of Mason and 
Dixon's line? Can it afford much 
longer to look indifferently on meas- 
ures which are intended to degrade 
and enslave any portion of our Amer- 
ican labor, while its commercial rivals 
in world markets are devoting special 
attention to raising by educational and 
other means the whole body of theirs? 
Is the rest of the nation going to give 
the Southern States a free hand in 
dealing with the negro, when a free 
hand in dealing with him means on 
their part the maintenance of a mass 
of ignorant, degraded, and inefficient 
labor? Does not the republic need 
above all things, in her industrial 
struggle for existence with powerful 
rivals, to raise not alone the labor of 
the Bast, nor that of the North, nor 
that of the West, but that of the South 
as well, to raise its whole vast labor 
citizenry to the highest state of eco- 
nomic efficiency of which that labor 
citizenry may be capable? The an- 
swer to such questions, God knows, is 
obvious enough. 

The means which have raised the 
labor of the rest of the nation to its 
present high state of productivity can 
raise Southern labor, will raise it in 
due time, if utilized by that section, 
to a state of equal economic value 
and industrial efficiency. The things 
which have made the labor of the 
North superior will not do less for 
negro laborers in the South — freedom, 
education, equality. Freedom to make 
the most and the best of themselves 
as men, as Americans; freedom to fall 
or rise in the social scale according to 
merit, not color; education as children 
in the common schools; education as 
citizens at the polls; and equality of 
rights and opportunities with other 
labor classes, with other groups of 
Americans regardless of race. When 
the negro progresses in industrial effi- 
ciency, in social well-being and well- 
doing, the South will progress in these 
important respects and in others. 
That section will gain immeasurably, 
not only in the improved character of 
its labor, in its heightened value as a 
producer of wealth, but in its height- 
ened value as a consumer of the staple 
products of those States and of the 
commodities exchanged for them in 



other markets. It is needless to add 
that the North, the rest of the nation, 
would gain enormously in wealth, in 
the volume of its Southern trade, from 
the same causes. It is, then, wisdom 
to look carefully after every hen, 
whether black or white, in our national 
barnyard, after every hen which lays 
for the republic golden eggs, as well 
as to look out for the acquisition of 
new markets abroad for the sale of 
those eggs. The national hen is of 
more value than her eggs, American 
labor, than its products. 

IV. 

In conclusion, there is yet another 
view of the subject in which the rest 
of the nation is vitally interested, and 
that is its politico-sectional side. No 
discussion of the question of the dis- 
franchisement of the negro by the 
South is complete which ignores this 
aspect of it. For it is an aspect which 
promises eventually to come very 
much into notice at the North. At 
some time in the near or distant future 
it is going to occupy Northern atten- 
tion to the exclusion of all other phases 
of the vexed question, and perhaps of 
all other questions of national import- 
ance besides. For at bottom it in- 
volves no less an issue than the old 
one of political domination between 
the sections. Possession or control of 
the government in its three co-ordinate 
branches has from the adoption of the 
Constitution been a cause of difference 
between the North and the South, with 
their contrary interests and institu- 
tions to be protected and promoted by 
means of the joint action of those 
branches. 

Before the war, slavery as it affected 
the negro was not objectionable to 
the free States, but slavery as it 
affected those States was. It was not 
slavery as a moral wrong, but slavery 
as a political evil to which they were 
opposed. When they came into conflict 
over this subject with the slave States, 
it was not for the sake of helping the 
slaves, but themselves — it was to pre- 
vent the evil from growing as a polit- 
ical power, to prevent it from increas- 
ing its vote in Congress and in the 
electoral college, to prevent it from 
dominating in national affairs, in 
national legislation. Such domination, 
the free States had learned by bitter 
experience, acted injuriously upon 
their interests. Hence Northern op- 
position to the extension of slavery, 
to the admission of new slave States. 
Nor will the rest of the nation inter- 



fere to-day in the matter of Southern 
disfranchisement of the negro for the 
sake of the negro, that is, because it 
is more friendly to him than to the 
South. Not at all. When the rest of 
the nation interferes in the final settle- 
ment of this question, as it will surely 
interfere, its interference will have 
regard solely to itself, to its own in- 
terests which shall at that time de- 
mand such action. But the North can- 
not interfere politically in the settle- 
ment of this question, whether in be- 
half of the disfranchised negro, or in 
protection of its own sectional inter- 
ests, without mortally offending its 
sister section, without reviving with 
new-born bitterness and added inten- 
sity the old and fierce rivalry between 
them, which played such a leading and, 
at times, violent part in the history 
of the country for a period of seventy 
years, — say from 1815 to 1885. 

Not the wrong which slavery in- 
flicted upon the negro was, then, the 
hub of the controversy between the 
two halves of the Union before the 
war of the Rebellion, but the undue 
influence in government which, in the 
opinion of the Northern, it gave to 
the Southern half. This undue polit- 
ical influence had its rise in the right 
of the South under the Constitution to 
count in the apportionment of repre- 
sentatives among the States five of 
her slaves as three freemen. This 
feature of the Constitution was dis- 
tinctly aristocratic. It certainly was 
not democratic. For it gave a South- 
ern white man who owned five negro 
slaves an electoral value in the repub- 
lic four times greater than that of a 
Northern white man. This unrepubli- 
can, this disproportionate political im- 
portance of a Southern slave owner 
over a Northern freeman produced no 
end of trouble between the two classes 
of men. And when it is remembered 
that the ideas and interests of these 
two classes of men were far from be- 
ing identical, that there was, on the 
contrary, no way of bringing about an 
identity of ideas and interests between 
them, — for while one of these groups 
was born and bred under the aristo- 
cratic idea, with a corresponding labor 
system which rooted itself in that 
idea, the other group was born and 
bred under the democratic idea with 
a corresponding labor system which 
rooted itself in that idea, — persons liv- 
ing to-day may get some notion of the 
fierceness and depth of the ante-bellum 
rivalry which waxed and waned, and 
waned and waxed, for a half century, 



between the slaveholding and the non- 
slaveholding States, for possession of 
the general government, as a coign of 
vantage in the struggle between them 
for domination in the republic. 

This strife, with alternations of re- 
verses and triumphs, first for one side 
and then for the other, went on until 
1861, when the rivals resorted to force 
to settle their differences. The war 
for the Union decided the momentous 
conflict in favor of the democratic idea 
and its system of free labor. The 
Thirteenth Amendment destroyed slav- 
ery and the slave power; or such, 
at least, was its purpose. The Four- 
teenth Amendment provided forever 
against a revival of the old aristocratic 
idea of inequality of civil conditions 
between the races in the South — the 
real ground of difference between the 
sections — by declaring all persons born 
or naturalized in the United States to 
be citizens of the United States. There 
was not again to exist in the Southern 
States any system of labor to take the 
place of the old slave labor system ex- 
cept that of free labor, and there was 
not again to appear any corresponding 
political power in the South to take 
the place of the defunct slave power; 
or such, at least, was the plain pur- 
pose of the Fourteenth Amendment. 
But in order to make assurance doubly 
sure on this vital point, a supple- 
mentary provision was incorporated 
into the amendment, to reduce the rep- 
resentation in Congress of any State 
which shall deny to any portion of its 
voting population the right to vote, in 
the proportion which the number of 
such disfranchised citizens "shall bear 
to the whole number of citizens twen- 
ty-one years of age in such State." 

The rest of the nation intended by 
these two great acts to destroy, root 
and branch, the old constitutional pro- 
vision which entitled the South to 
count five slaves as three freemen in 
the apportionment of representatives 
among the States. It was determined 
to rid the country for all time of any 
future trouble from that cause. The 
Reconstruction measures attempted to 
introduce into the old slave States the 
democratic idea, and a labor system 
corresponding to that idea. But in 
the event of failure in these regards, 
and the ultimate revival on the part 
of those States of the aristocratic 
idea, and a labor system corresponding 
to that idea, it was carefully provided 
that such revival of the old aristocratic 
idea and labor system should be ac- 
companied by an equivalent loss of 



political power on the part of those 
States. They were no longer to eat 
their cake, metaphorically speaking, 
and keep it, too. For this eating and 
keeping something at one and the 
same time means that the something 
kept belongs to some one else than the 
eater. The political power which the 
South manages to retain in spite of her 
disfranchisement of the negro does 
not, therefore, belong to her. If she 
deprives the negro of the right to vote 
without being deprived in turn of a 
proportionate share of her representa- 
tion in Congress, she has possessed 
herself wrongfully of a power in na- 
tional politics, in national legislation, 
which rightfully belongs to the negro. 
And this power she may and does 
exercise against the negro and the 
North at the same time. It will be 
seen by the North some day, as it is 
seen to-day by the negro, that while 
her old rival has lost on paper the old 
three-fifths slave representation under 
the Constitution to which she was en- 
titled before the war, she has not prac- 
tically suffered any loss at all in this 
respect, but the contrary. She has 
actually gained since the war the other 
two-fifths in the apportionment of rep- 
resentatives among the States. For 
five of her disfranchised colored citi- 
zens count to-day the same as five 
Northern voters, instead of the pro- 
portion prevailing in ante-bellum 
times, when it took five slaves to equal 
three freemen in Federal numbers. 

Following the adoption of the Four- 
teenth Amendment the North seemed 
still uneasy on this head. For very 
early coming events in the South were 
casting shadows before them to the 
manifest disturbance of the Northern 
mind. Heeding these shadows of ill 
omen along the Southern horizon, the 
North decided to clear the national 
sky of every shadowy possibility of a 
return of conditions which existed be- 
fore the war, and which vexed her 
sorely during those bitter years. Ap- 
prehensive, then, lest the Fourteenth 
Amendment had not made a repetition 
of this history impossible, the nation 
adopted the Fifteenth Amendment, 
which ordains that "the right of citi- 
zens of the United States to vote shall 
not be denied or abridged by the 
United States or by any State on ac- 
count of race, color, or previous con- 
dition of servitude." Each of those 
three great steps was taken by the 
North to rid the country of the South- 
ern aristocratic idea, and of its corre- 
sponding labor system; to plough into 



Southern soil the democratic idea and 
its corresponding system of free labor; 
to purge the Constitution of its hateful 
three-fifths slave representation prin- 
ciple; to redress, in short, the old 
balance of political power between the 
sections in order to secure forever the 
domination of our Northern industrial 
democracy in national affairs. 

Then ensued naturally enough in the 
wake of a period of great emotions a 
period of strong reaction at the North. 
That section grew weary of the ever- 
lasting negro question, and began to 
yearn for peace, for a cessation of 
strife between the sections; began to 
yearn for change, for other sensations, 
for other interests of a more material 
kind — for dollars and dividends, for 
railroads and mines and factories, for 
buying and selling, for the thousand 
and one things which make up the 
busy life, the activity of a great and 
enterprising people. The spirit of 
modern commercialism descended like 
a consuming flame on the new genera- 
tion which followed the war. Modern 
industrialism sucked like a huge mael- 
strom the whole multifarious and mul- 
titudinous life and force of the nation 
into itself, with that one exception, the 
South. 

This chapter in our history illus- 
trates afresh the truth of the old fable 
of the race between the tortise and 
the hare, which race was not to the 
swift hare that stopped on the way, 
but to the slow, the ever moving tor- 
toise. The Northern Hare ran swiftly, 
when it did run, along the course of 
Southern Reconstruction, but it did 
not endure to the end. Whereas the 
Southern Tortoise, slow but sure, has 
kept its equal pace without a pause 
from the close of the war to the pres- 
ent time. It did not weary of the 
everlasting negro question. It does 
not weary of it. It will not weary of 
it until it is settled to its entire satis- 
faction. 

The democratic idea of government 
has been put to rout in every South- 
ern State by the old aristocratic idea 
founded in race prejudice and race dis- 
tinctions. A labor system is fast grow- 
ing up about this idea — a labor system 
as much opposed to the labor system 
of the rest of the nation, as was the 
old slave system to the free labor of 
the North. There can be no lasting 



peace between them now, any more 
than such peace was possible between 
them in the period before the war. 
The political and industrial interests 
of the sections are not the same, and 
cannot be made the same so long as 
differences so fundamental in respect 
to government and labor exist between 
them. The conflict of the two con- 
trary ideas of government, of the two 
contrary labor systems, for survivor- 
ship in the Union, may be postponed 
as it is to-day, but it cannot be extin- 
guished except by the extinction of 
one or the other of the old rivals. For 
they are doomed, in one form or an- 
other, by economic and social laws, to 
ceaseless rivalry and strife. 

In this strife the disfranchisement 
of the negro by the South is a distinct 
victory for the Southern idea, for the 
Southern rival, over the Northern idea, 
the Northern rival. The Southern 
idea has taken on new life, is resow- 
ing itself, striking powerful roots into 
Southern soil. And while it is steadily 
strengthening its ascendency over 
those States, its pollen dust is slowly 
spreading in many devious ways, 
blown by winds of destiny beyond 
the limits of those States, attacking 
with subtle, far-reaching and deep- 
reaching influences the democratic 
idea of the rest of the nation, giving 
aid and form to all those feelings, 
thoughts, purposes, hidden or open, 
but active, in the republic, hostile 
to popular government, to the demo- 
cratic principle of equality and uni- 
versal suffrage. The South has thrown 
down its gage of battle for the aris- 
tocratic idea, for the labor system 
which grows out of that idea. This 
gage of battle is the disfranchisement 
of the negro because he is a negro, 
and the consequent degradation of him 
as a laborer. Will the North accept 
the challenge of its old rival, will it 
pick up the gage of battle thus thrown 
down? I think that it will. I am sure 
that it will. When? I confess frankly 
I do not know. But of this I have 
no doubt, that when this time comes, 
as come it must, the negro will mark 
again, as he did formerly, the dead 
line between the combatants — between 
the aristocratic idea of the South and 
the democratic idea of the rest of the 
nation; between the labor system of 
the South and the labor system of the 
rest of the nation. 



PRESS OF 

E. A. WRIGHT 

PHILADELPHIA